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Junior Curator Yellowstone Trip – June 26, 2012

June 27, 2012

It is a rare occurrence to consider 6:15 as an opportunity to sleep in, but that was how we JCs (Junior Curators) felt on the Tuesday morning of June 26th. In the morning we met up with Ranger Matt who guided us through the otherworldly landscape of the Mammoth Hot Springs. While smelling the pungent hydrogen sulfide issuing from the thermal features, our guide led us along a raised boardwalk that traversed the springs. Along the way, we stopped to listen to the rich history of the springs and the science behind them. Normally geological features take thousands, even millions of years, to form, but we were able to observe evidence of the rapid deposition of the mineral travertine that built the terraces.

The springs owe their warm coloring to microorganisms called thermophiles (thermophiles means heat-loving). Because these organisms can survive in such a harsh environment that may resemble conditions on early Earth, some scientists believe that similar life forms could exist on other planets.

We also learned the story of Ollie Anderson, a salesman from the 1870s, who was well known for the souvenirs he sold. Visitors, at the beginning of a trip, would give him a trinket. He would place the trinket into the spring where travertine would accumulate and crystallize on the item. When they picked up their items at the end of the trip, they thought they were given the coolest souvenir ever; however, when they returned home, they would find that the fragile travertine had disintegrated from the object.

On our way towards a lunch area, we stopped to observe a herd of bison. We learned about their social structure and gender determination. After a picnic lunch, Mike reminded us of a Yellowstone tradition: head dunking. We headed down towards a creek nearby and lined up along the bank. Getting on all fours, we proceeded to submerge our heads into the frigid waters of the Soda Butte River. Emerging, we finally began to realize that this symbolic tradition literally immersed us headfirst into the natural wonders of Yellowstone.

Upon our return to the van, we headed out to look for mountain goats. We found some! We also found a trail with an unknown destination. Changing our plans on a whim, we decided to leave the path to explore the woods. We happened upon a river and, unable to resist, we took off our shoes and waded into the cold water. We skipped rocks and made snowmen out of mud! It was a great time to relax and have some fun together.

When we could finally tear ourselves away from the beautiful river, it was time for dinner. We headed back to Cooke City for pizza. The power had gone out there because of a felled power line far down the road that unfortunately caused a forest fire. Still, our restaurant welcomed us in for a delicious pizza dinner. The cultural differences between rural Montana and Raleigh, NC are very interesting to behold. For starters, some JCs started to feel the music and got up to dance, providing entertainment for the whole restaurant! The relaxed customers seemed to not be bothered by, and even enjoyed, us acting like our crazy selves. Also, during dinner, a firefighter walked in and asked for volunteers to help fight the forest fire. Several people immediately rose to help, which really goes to show how tight the small communities are up there. So far, almost everyone we’ve met has been friendly and laid back and the small town communities really seem to treat everyone like friends.

By Seraphina, Carolyn, Sam F., Eli, Allison, and John

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 27, 2012 1:59 pm

    Reblogged this on NC Museum of Natural Sciences Blogs and commented:

    By the Junior Curators

  2. Yusuf D. permalink
    June 27, 2012 3:10 pm

    Rock on JCs! Hahaha! Good to hear that you all are having some sweet adventures up there! Snowmen out of mud? You just HAD to out do my mud puddle jumping didn’t you? I am proud of you all for making that restaurant, and its patrons, happy and lively, even with the power outage and forest fires, and you did it just by being yourselves too. Just plain awesome! It’s great to hear from you all! Stay safe and keep adventuring!!!

    Sincerely, one of your JC buddies…Guess who!

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